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Oakland 6, Tampa Bay 2: Rays miss Alvarado in another late-inning loss

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Soft contact trumps hard contact, and the Rays miss their stud reliever

The debate over reliever WAR has been one of the more interesting slow-and-steady discussions over the past few years in baseball.

On the one hand, relievers only throw 60 or so innings a season, so how much can they really be worth?

Of course, on the flip side of that, their innings are often the most important innings in the game, with high-leverage moments galore.

Everything with relievers is just much more under the microscope, and the Rays are experiencing that right now, as they have been without their “closer” and top reliever, Jose Alvarado, since June 1.

On Wednesday afternoon, that absence was once again notable, as the A’s defeated the Rays by a final score of 6-2 in a game that was actually far closer than that.

The Rays turned to Yonny Chirinos to start the Getaway Day day game** in a move that seems to solidify that the Rays are now comfortable with Yonny as a full-time, regular starter, especially given that he was, in fact, paired with Ryne Stanek today, but Stanek was used in the seventh inning rather than the first.

** (For all the angst we seem to have over Rays Getaway Day day games this year, they are now 9-8 in those games and averaging 4.2 runs per game in those affairs. Slightly worse than their overall numbers on both accounts, but far from the heinous numbers I and many other Rays fans would have assumed.)

And Yonny looked the part again, he held the A’s off the board until the fourth inning, when an infield hit (that really could’ve been called an Adames’ error) let Khris Davis score from third to give the game its first run. Yonny ended up with yet another quality start (shouts, Danny), going six innings, allowing just two runs (a massive Matt Olson shot was the other) on seven hits and a walk, while punching out seven.

Yonny wasn’t the issue.

The issues were:

  • The Rays lacking a big righty bat
  • The Rays being an arm or two short at the back end of the bullpen
  • Sequencing

Luckily, two of those three issues will be fixed by the trade deadline (at least they better be). Not luckily, there’s not much you can do about sequencing, and we’re not actually to the trade deadline yet.

For the entirety of his six and a third innings, the A’s Brett Anderson was able to get the Rays to put the ball in play for outs. That’s not to say he was limiting hard contact, though...

This has been a recurring (and annoying) theme to the season, where the Rays make far more hard contact than their opponent but with less results. (And yes, I do realize I only notice this when it happens against us, and not the other way around, thank you.)

All that hard contact couldn’t put the Rays on the board through six, however, and it took getting into the bullpen to get the first Rays runs aboard. After a walk and a bloop hit (soft contact!) off Anderson, the A’s brought in Liam Hendricks, who immediately gave up the lead thanks to a Yandy Diaz double and an infield single from Avisail Garcia that did well to cancel out the A’s infield RBI single from earlier (in the minds of petty Rays fans such as myself).

With the score tied 2-2 headed into the top of the eighth, this is typically when the Rays would the hand the over to their bullpen ace, Alvarado. The leverage doesn’t get much higher, and despite a couple shaky outings here and there, he’s certainly the best Rays bullpen option around.

Instead, the Rays turned to Adam Kolarek who allowed a single on his one pitch, and then Chaz Roe who got a strikeout of Khris Davis (in just about a dream matchup), but then couldn’t find the zone to save his life, walking a pair before handing things over to Colin Poche, the Rays third reliever of the inning—the highest-leverage inning of the game.

The rookie was tossed into the fire, and he got burned. He left a 2-2 fastball waist-high, and Ramon Laureano made him pay, finding the left-center bleachers, effectively sealing the win for the road team.

The Rays got three hits in the eighth, but as was the theme of the game: they couldn’t sequence their hits well enough, as a double play wiped out the opportunity. The Rays out-hit the A’s 12-9 on the day, but they still took the four-run L.

The Rays continue their crazy stretch of 47 games in 48 days with a four-game set at home against the Fighting Mike Trouts starting Thursday. Three junk-ball lefties and a rookie righty on the docket for the Angels... I can taste the disappointment from here.